Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Cross and The Sword

by Dan Jones


One of the criticisms of Christianity is that, as it is currently practiced in our culture, it's not really very masculine. In fact, there are those who say the Church in America has been "feminized."

They point to contemporary Christian music and charge that many of the songs could as easily be any sappy love song ever written with the name of Jesus substituted for the name of the girl next door. 

They long for the days when we sang, "Onward Christian Soldiers" and we were ready to march into war.

They'd like a little more sword in their faith, please.

As it happens, while these thoughts were milling around in my head, this set of verses came up:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:34-38 ESV

Now, there we have some verses with a sword in them!

It sure sounds like it's going to be an epic battle here. A man will be against his own father, conflict and battle will be within our own homes and families, and lives will be laid down for the cause of Christ. 

But, let's notice who is swinging the sword in these verses.

The speaker here is Jesus. So, it is Jesus who is swinging the sword. He is the one setting homes and families against each other, not the disciples He is sending out. 

And, while Jesus is swinging that big, macho sword, what are His disciples doing?


They're lugging a cross and following Him

It's important to note here that Jesus is giving the speech to His disciples as he sends them out to witness to the lost in Israel, before He was crucified.

He's even saying this to them before He even hinted that He would die on a cross. He is sending them out with no equipment whatsoever--not even an extra shirt or an extra pair of sandals. He tells them not to take a walking stick or even a single penny with them. He sends them out with absolutely nothing, telling them that they will be flogged and beaten and dragged into court.

But, even as He tells them how bad it's going to get, He tells them not to be afraid--because they won't need any of that stuff.

Later He will ask them when they were sent out, if they had lacked anything and they will have to admit there was nothing they needed. This is in Luke 22:35 and, in the very next verse, He tells them if they don't have a sword, they should sell a cloak and go buy one. 

They say they have two and Jesus says that is enough. (v. 38)

This is immediately before they go to Gethsemane to pray, where Jesus is arrested, and where Peter hacks off the ear of Malchus. The disciples asked if they should fight with those swords,

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51 ESV)

But what about the sword we are told to carry as part of the armor of God from Ephesians 6?

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (v.17 NIV)

The sword is the last item listed in the armor of God in these verses and it is specifically identified as the word of God, which then makes me think of this verse:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

So, as Christians, we wield a sword far more effective, far more powerful, far more awesome than anything made of iron or steel and wrought by human hands.

And, that very sword will show up again in the greatest battle of all eternity:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
(Revelation 19:11-16 NIV)

Today's Praise
Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before
Onward then, ye people
Join our happy throng
Blend with ours your voices
In our triumph song
Christ the royal master
Leads against the foe
Forward into battle
See His banners go
Crowns and Thrones may perish
Kingdoms rise and wane
But the cross of Jesus
Constant will remain
"Onward, Christian Soldiers" by Sabine Baring-Gould (Words, 1865) and Arthur Sullivan (music, 1872)

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